The Six Classes of Nutrients and Their Functions
Nutrients are chemicals found in foods that are essential to human growth and function. There are six classes of nutrients: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water. All six have certain functions that target a different body part, and together, they ensure the state of our overall health. Some of the different functions of some nutrients are listed below in more detail:
Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins
Carbohydrates, fats and proteins are listed in one category because they are called macro-nutrients, meaning they are needed in large amounts. This is because you get most of your energy from foods that contain carbohydrates, fats or proteins and the energy we need for basic functioning and physical activity also comes from these nutrients. Carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for our bodies, especially for our brain and during physical activity. On the other hand, fats are an important energy source when our bodies are at rest and during low-intensity exercises. Proteins support the growth, repair and maintenance of tissues. The following are the foods that contain good sources of carbohydrates, fats and proteins:
- Carbohydrates: vegetables, whole wheat pasta, whole grain bread
- Fats: oils such as vegetable, canola and flaxseed
- Proteins: fish, legumes, nuts
Vitamins are an essential nutrient because they build and maintain healthy bones and muscle tissue. They also support our immune system, maintain the health of our blood, and ensure healthy vision. Vitamins are micro-nutrients, meaning they are needed in small amounts to sustain our normal health and body functions. Some examples of common vitamins are Vitamin C and K, and the many B Vitamins.
Minerals assist in the regulation of many body functions, some of which involve regulating fluids and producing energy and health of our bones and blood. This nutrient also helps rid our body of harmful byproducts of metabolism. Some examples of well-known minerals are calcium, potassium, sodium and iron.
Water is one of the most important nutrients mainly because it is extremely important for our survival. The appropriate intake of water maintains the balance of fluids inside and outside of our cells. Water is also critical because it assists in the regulation of nerve impulses, the excretion of waste products, muscle contractions and nutrient transport. We consume water in solid forms such as fruits and vegetables as well as in liquid form such as juices and soups. Drinking eight to ten glasses of water will ensure that all the above body functions are carried out properly.
Overall, with the regular intake of the needed amounts of each of these six nutrients, you are able to maintain a desirable body weight.